Governor Tom Vilsack held a rare, public negotiating session Tuesday with ten lawmakers directly involved in drafting the state’s education agenda. Vilsack and the group of five Republicans and five Democrats reviewed a list of 30 bills, but the governor made it clear his number one priority is not teacher pay but more money for preschool.
“Just so you know, you all are very adamant about all the things that are on this list that you feel passionately about,” Vilsack said. “This is the thing that I feel passionately about.”
Last year, the legislature approved spending 21-million dollars on early childhood education programs and Senator Nancy Boettger, a Republican from Harlan, says Republicans want to see what results they’re getting first before spending even more state tax money.
Governor Vilsack rejected that argument. “So long as the program’s a quality program and there are standards by which to measure that, investment in preschool is a winner,” Vilsack said. Vilsack contends kids who go to preschool not only do better in elementary school, but they go on to graduate from high school. He even suggests they are more likely to stay married. “The research is very, very clear,” Vilsack says.
Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, says he’s willing to consider Vilsack’s request for preschool funding because Vilsack, in turn, is willing to consider the G-O-P’s request that any teacher pay increases be tied to performance in the classroom.